What if I fall? Oh my darling, but what if you fly? -e.h.

This little baby jump may not look very impressive, but to me, it is a symbol of conquering an irrational fear I’ve struggled with for over twenty years.

Growing up, we spent the majority of our summers at our family cabin on Lake Texoma. I have an older brother and all boy cousins, so I always just hung with the boys when we were there. One of our favorite things to do was water ski and inner tube. We begged our parents to pull us behind the boat or Sea Doo day after day. Once we were old enough to get our boating licenses, we spent endless hours pulling one another.

My brother and cousins, being typical boys, liked to push my buttons any chance they could get. Lucky for them, they figured out early on that I was scared of fish, especially alligator gars. They convinced me that these fish were prehistoric monsters that would bite my toes off if they had the chance. When we partook in water sports and I would fall, they would yell that an alligator gar had just surfaced and was headed straight for me. I would start panicking and screaming, frantically swimming back to the vessel. The more I panicked, the more it fueled them to egg me on.They thought it was hilarious. I thought it was terrifying and over time, its effect was paralyzing.

Instead of brushing it off, I let it rule me.

It got so bad that I eventually refused to go into water over my head, thus kissing my water sports days goodbye. I would watch parents and other kids improve their skills, having the time of their lives on the water, while I let fear rule me and stuck tightly to my seat in the boat.

I didn’t consider facing my fears until I started bringing high school friends to the lake. I wanted to impress them with my water sports abilities, but realized it had been so long since I had skied that I no longer had any skills. It was then that I determined to face my fears and learn how to wake board. I had never wake boarded growing up and for some reason, the thought of trying something new helped me stomach the idea of getting back into the water.

I asked my mom and dad to help me. I spent an extended period of time explaining to them that I wanted to be in the water for as little time as possible and that if I fell, they needed to whip the boat around as quickly as possible to pick me up. The second I hit the water, I would start hyperventilating and hollering at my parents to come get me, NOW.

Over time, I grew accustomed to playing it safe, staying within the wake but never daring to venture out. My skills improved slowly as my fear of falling (or failing, depending on how you look at it), kept me from really learning. I thought I was conquering my fear, but really, I was simply disguising it.

This past weekend, we once again headed out on the water. But this time, I decided to try something different as I sat on the back of the boat and strapped on my board.

I prayed.

I prayed that God would be with me while I was in the water, that He would help me conquer my fears, and that He would keep the stupid fish away.

And then, I dropped off the back of the boat and grabbed hold of the ski rope. I could feel Him by my side, and for the first time in a very long time, I was comfortable in the water. I decided it was time to stop playing it safe, to stop letting fear hold me back, and start to move forward.

I shifted my weight and pointed my board perpendicular to the wake, crushing right over it and heading straight for the open water. When I reached the end of the pendulum, I turned my board back in the opposite direction, heading straight back into the wake at full speed.

I hit it perfectly and launched into the air.

And instead of falling, I flew.